Friday, June 15, 2012

Plotting and Pacing in YA--A guest post by Elana Johnson

So, we all know that lovely gal, Elana Johnson. She's got a new release, SURRENDER. See the pretty cover.

Elana has amazing things going on at her blog, and today, she's on my blog sharing her knowledge. Take it away Elana.

Okay, so if you’ve read my books, you know I’m a big fan of fast-paced, all-action-all-the-time novels. Both POSSESSION and SURRENDER sort of start out slow and then push the reader to the end.

There’s an element of plotting that has to happen when writing. I’m a supporter of a slow start, especially when building a new world for readers. I want to be eased into a new world with a new character like sinking into a hot bath.

After that? All bets are off. I then want things to happen, and happen fast. But that doesn’t mean you as the author can throw everything and the kitchen sink at the reader.

I like to think of pacing like a horse race. Red Pollard didn’t take Seabiscuit out of the gate at one hundred miles per hour. He held the horse back at points, and drove him forward at others. And then he really whipped Seabiscuit down the home stretch.

I think YA authors can learn a lot from thinking about pacing in this way. There’s a time to give readers a lot of information pertaining to the plot. There’s a time for pure action. There’s a time to pull back a little and breathe.

It’s all about knowing when to do so.

Let’s examine the Top Five things I think can really guide a reader through a novel. And readers want to feel like they’re in the hands of someone who can lead them through a story.

1.      The opening image. I think this should be a bit slower. Give readers a chance to sink into your world and character like a hot bath.

2.      After you’ve set up the world and character, we need to be driven with the catalyst and debate. I think the pages from 30 – 90 (or so) should be full of tension and plot elements and the definition of character motivation for the rest of the novel. When we finally break into Act 2, the reader should be hoping for a break in the action.

3.      And they should get it. The introduction of the B Story is the time for you as the author to pull the horse back a little bit. You’ve just given them 60 pages of high action and emotional pulling. They need a break. They need fun and games.

4.      Fun and Games. This is where you can have some really cool action scenes. This is where Iron Man gets to try on his suit and go flying around.

5.      At the midpoint, the stakes are raised. And the pacing should naturally increase from there. The fun and games are over, and it’s time to get down to business of solving the problem at hand. The last half of your book should really drive readers to the last page.

What elements do you consider when plotting and pacing your novel?

This week, as part of the SURRENDER blog tour, you can win one of three $15 Barnes & Noble gift cards and become a winner winner, chicken dinner! All you have to do is fill out this rafflecopter widget with what you’ve done. NOTE: One of the options is to blog about a time you didn’t surrender. Go here for full details on this, including how to sign up for your free swag package!

<a id="rc-2572e99" class="rafl" href="">a Rafflecopter giveaway</a>

Thanks so much Elana! Also, check out her new release, SURRENDER. See blurb below because you know you want it.

About SURRENDER: Raine has always been a good girl. She lives by the rules in Freedom. After all, they are her father’s rules: He’s the Director. It’s because of him that Raine is willing to use her talent—a power so dangerous, no one else is allowed to know about it. Not even her roommate, Vi.

All of that changes when Raine falls for Gunner. Raine’s got every reason in the world to stay away from Gunn, but she just can’t. Especially when she discovers his connection to Vi’s boyfriend, Zenn.

Raine has never known anyone as heavily brainwashed as Vi. Raine’s father expects her to spy on Vi and report back to him. But Raine is beginning to wonder what Vi knows that her father is so anxious to keep hidden, and what might happen if she helps Vi remember it. She’s even starting to suspect Vi’s secrets might involve Freedom’s newest prisoner, the rebel Jag Barque…. 

Thanks again, Elana! I hope the link works, if it doesn't, please go to Elana's blog to sign up for the giveaway.
Have a great weekend!


  1. Great breakdown of Save The Cat as it relates to pacing. Awesome post, Elana.

  2. Great post on plotting and pacing, and in simple terms I totally comprehend. Thanks, E. ;D

    Thanks for hosting her, Christine. Have a great weekend.

  3. Great tips for pacing. If it's all go-go-go, readers become exhausted.

  4. Very informative. I think Elana's book are just the right pace for me. I hate it when books drag on and give information I don't really care about.

  5. Timely! I'm stuck on a pacing element right now in my current WIP. Having just put the MC into danger, I can't get him out of it too fast ... which means my next planned plot point can't happen yet. I'm trying to figure out a way to keep the tension high or introduce his exit ticket in such a way that he doesn't recognize it...

  6. The middle point...this is my make or break it. If it doesn't pick up speed toward the end.... I just tend to lose interest.

  7. Fabulous post! I really like the horse analogy--that's such a great way of thinking about it!

  8. My pacing is like a roller coaster, and I use the down time between action scenes for character development and character arc. I usually draft a story, then allow the story to unfold naturally, allowing the characters to jostle for page time and compete among each other for the reader's attention.

  9. Good points to keep in mind, even for non-YA writers.

    The Seabiscuit analogy was excellent Elana.